05 March 2007


I am all about the herbs in general. Herbs are great: you throw some seeds in a pot on your windowsill, water every couple of days, and lo! plants! Herbs are the best kind of plants, since you can just pinch off some leaves and use them whenever you want. As long as the plant is not technically dead, there is always some part to use. Even those gigantic terrifying late summer bolted flowering creatures are useful: just let them die, dry them out, and harvest their seeds. I have a huge sack of parsley seeds which I harvested by this very method.

The parsley plant loved our backyard. It was also one of the few plants not to be ravaged by squirrels. I assume this was because there was no obvious fruit. The tomatoes definitely did not fare anything like as well. Jalapeno peppers, on the other hand, did extremely well, as the squirrels took one bite and died of heat. Anyway.

I had initially had said plant in a terracotta pot on the kitchen windowsill, i.e. the usual place for herbs at our house. It grew and grew and eventually severely needed a repot. I didn't have any bigger pots, and it was spring, so I dug a hole in our backyard and stuck it in. That plant shot up a foot in two weeks. It loved the backyard without hope or reason. "FREE! FREE!" it shrieked. It kept us up at nights with its loud parties and drunken debauchery. It had a pretty excellent life back there: unpinned by any barrier, roots flung far and wide, soaking in its boggy corner. It only had to cough up for its glamorous lifestyle every couple days, as I clogged it outside to collect my handful of leaves.

Then I made soup and salad and pasta and potatoes and more pasta and salad and sandwiches.

Eventually the last of the California summer did it in. The parsley flowered, and I did not pinch off the buds. I let it bolt, let it dry, let it stand in the backyard until it was good and October. Then I uprooted the whole thing and proceeded to shake the seeds down. Now it's time to plant them.

In the meantime, it is still spring, and I want greens, now, no waiting. So we have big dark bunches of store parsley. Maybe some people have trouble using up this much parsley. Ok, so let's get creative. Can you eat parsley in every single meal for two days? I did. You saw dinner the other night: pasta with parsley, veal with parsley. Easy. You can add it to anything. Or you can make it the star of the show. I did this today (and yesterday) with my excellent lunch.

Salad sandwich

pita, tortilla, or flatbread
green onion greens
black pepper

Take a tortilla (or whatever you have that is workable for a roll/stuff sandwich of this type) and slather it with hummus. Add sliced mushrooms, sliced carrots, green onion, and parsley. Pepper voluminously, and don't skimp on the parsley. The parsley makes this sandwich.

Were I having this at home, not storing it for four hours at work, I would definitely have added some lemon juice or even a little vinaigrette. I also would recommend radishes and cucumber. People: this thing was great, even with a cheap flour-flavored tortilla. I can only imagine the glory were I to have had decent flatbread.

Then there is the dinner I had last night. Clearly you can't have pasta every day, although I find that the easiest way to use nearly any fresh herb. However, this time, it was not pasta. Instead I had couscous.

Couscous with vegetables and herbs

dry couscous
boiling water
butter or olive oil
green onion
black pepper
lemon juice

Everyone has a clear idea of what lives in my refrigerator by this point, I assume.

Set the teakettle on to boil with a cup or so of water. Warm up the bowl out of which you want to eat with some hot water from the tap. This way you won't shatter your bowl when you pour boiling water on it. Do it.

While things are boiling, chop up whatever vegetables you want on your couscous. These are going to be raw, so plan accordingly. I sliced all my vegetables as thin as I could, because I like them that way.

When your water is steaming and about to boil, take it off the heat. Dump the now-lukewarm water out of your bowl and pour in some couscous. Just add as much of it as you want to eat. I maybe used 2/3 cup. Then add hot water to cover, stir, and let sit for a five minutes. If the couscous soaks up 100% of the water in under a minute, or if it still tastes hard in the middle, add some more water. Seriously, I don't measure things like this. If you add too much water, just add some more couscous. It is easy. When it's done, stick a couple little chunks of butter on top to melt. Or add olive oil. Or don't add anything. It's fine either way.

Add your chopped vegetables, lots of pepper, and at least a couple good squirts of lemon juice. Lemon juice is the essential dressing, but I added some vinaigrette also. Maybe add some salt if you want. Stir it all up and eat. It is awesome, it costs about fifty cents, and it only takes you 5 minutes to make dinner.

Other good things to add: roasted red pepper, pine nuts, feta cheese, quartered cherry and/or grape tomatoes. Oh man, if I'd had grape tomatoes and feta! Imagine the deliciousness! Or you could change the herb palette completely and add fresh basil with the roasted red pepper and some chopped olives. Fresh basil. Hmm.

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